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October 2016: Immigration Victory

October 2016

The firm recently won a pro bono victory for Andre Mulder in U.S. Immigration Court. Mr. Mulder was born in Brazil in 1983 and lived on the streets for the first years of his life. He was adopted from a Brazilian orphanage when he was eight by a U.S. citizen. While at the orphanage, he was abused by the administrators and other children, which resulted in mental impairment.

As an adult living in the United States, Mr. Mulder was convicted of several misdemeanor assault crimes, the last of which was elevated to a felony under Michigan’s repeat offender statutes. After Mr. Mulder served his sentence, the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) detained him, arguing that he was removable because he had pled guilty to a “crime of violence” that met the statutory definition for an aggravated felony. (8 U.S.C. § 1227(a)(2); 18 U.S.C. § 16(b)). Mr. Mulder represented himself in his initial removal hearing, which resulted in the Immigration Judge ordering him deported to Brazil. Mr. Mulder’s case was then recommended to Quinn Emanuel by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network’s Pro Bono Project.

On appeal, Quinn Emanuel argued that Mr. Mulder was not afforded adequate safeguards during his pro se hearing, given his mental incompetency, and that the statute defining a “crime of violence,” (18 U.S.C. § 16(b))—on which the DHS’s case hinged—was unconstitutionally void for vagueness under the Due Process Clause. The Bureau of Immigration Appeals agreed with Mr. Mulder that the Immigration Judge had not provided adequate safeguards to Mr. Mulder and remanded the case to a new Immigration Judge without resolving the constitutional issue.

On remand, the firm successfully sought strong procedural safeguards for Mr. Mulder. Mr. Mulder was being held at a facility far from family and experts who could help with his case. Following a hearing on safeguards, he was moved to a facility closer to his family and given a clean slate to present his case, for the first time, with the assistance of counsel.

At the subsequent removal hearing, Quinn Emanuel again argued that the relevant portion of the statute defining a “crime of violence” was unconstitutionally vague, and in the alternative that the criminal statute Mr. Mulder was convicted of violating did not meet the definition of a “crime of violence.” The strength of Mr. Mulder’s case was aided when, just subsequent to the hearing, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued a controlling decision agreeing with Mr. Mulder’s contention that the relevant portion of the “crime of violence” statute was unconstitutionally vague. Following that ruling, the Immigration Judge issued an order terminating the proceedings, and Mr. Mulder was released after two years of detention. He immediately went back home to Grand Rapids, Michigan to reunite with his family and friends, and to meet his newborn child, who had been born while Mr. Mulder was in detention.